By: Liz Trudel, Staff Writer
The halfway point of the semester has passed and these past two months have had their fair share of controversial events. So far there has been transphobic graffiti, Matthew Bourgault, the traveling preacher, arriving on campus to spread his hateful rhetoric, Glenn Cumming’s use of derogatory slang during the first Convocation event, and a few weeks ago there was homophobic graffiti located in the Robie/Andrews elevator. Over these two months it feels like each week is something new, and according to some students, with each event comes with a lackluster response from our administration. So with these events, just how safe do the students feel while on campus, around their fellow students and how safe do they feel with the administration?
With the mixture of events, it is no surprise that there are students that do not feel completely safe while on campus. Jasmine DeMoranville, an 18 year old freshman majoring in general linguistics had no real relationship with the administration, but now feels that after the way the protest with Bourgault was handled, she mostly has a bad relationship with the administration. DeMoranville was a member of the group of students who were present during the protesting on campus and stated that, “I don’t like the way that the protest was handled, and it made me extremely uncomfortable that the man had a weapon, and nothing was done.” She stated though, that she feels generally safe on campus around other students, though the thought that she could be targeted has crossed her mind due to being a lesbian and Hindu, though not frequently
Michael Laforte, a 19 year old freshman who is currently an undeclared major, was also a member of the crowd during Bourgault’s visit. Laforte feels that the administration needs to be improved based on how they handled the situation, but generally feels safe around other students. “Any amount of safety I have is from the students and not from the staff,” Laforte stated. Laforte is a member of the Queer Straight Alliance where students talk about the events that have been happening on campus such as the transphobic graffiti, though Laforte feels that though there are definitely questionable people on campus, they tend to stick to the shadows and don’t show any outward aggression except for vandalism and putting up the hateful graffiti.
Katie Muriel, a 25 year old senior double majoring in criminology and women and gender studies, states that she sometimes feels safe and sometimes doesn’t. Muriel doesn’t feel like the administration has been giving good responses to the controversy on campus, pointing out that Cummings, with his lack of response to these events, and his lackluster apology for what he said during Convocation, is not doing as good a job as she wishes he would. Muriel said that she feels the safest when she is in a community of like-minded individuals and feels that she can relax and be herself, noting the Women and Gender Studies building as being one of those communities, referring to it as a safe space for her. While for herself she doesn’t feel unsafe with her gender, sexuality or religion, she expressed that she feels worried for her friends and other people because they can be at risk to be called out or targeted with the seemingly frequent, hateful graffiti. “I’m not happy, to put it mildly.” Muriel stated.
While there are a good amount of students who do not feel as safe as they could, there are also many students who do feel safe around the students and the administration, regardless of the events and what other students see as a lacking response from the administration. Gricia Bondonga, a 19 year old freshman majoring in finance, feels that she is safe on campus and doesn’t feel that anyone will attack her or is talking behind her back. She believes that USM does a good job with inclusion for all students with areas like the multicultural center, and believes that both the students and the administration doesn’t give her any unease. She says that she has yet to feel like she’d be called out for her gender or religion.
From the students, it seems that they feel most unsafe and mostly disappointed with the administration and how they have been responding to the various events that have been happening all semester. The students feel that the administration needs to be more involved by asking students and student groups what they would like to see from them. “Reach out to these communities that are being targeted, at the very least to get input.” Laforte stated. The events that have transpired have seemed to not completely break the trust of the students, but they do wish that administration would step up and do more for the students of the USM community.